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We hear terms such as energy-efficient, green, resilient, zero-energy ready (ZER), along with many others every day. When you are a builder, or if you are into building science, you know (or should know) what they all mean. However, as a home buyer that just wants a home that is safe, comfortable, and has the lowest monthly utility bills possible, these terms can sound foreign. The common denominator that plays a role in each of these areas is something called the “thermal envelope”. It’s most basic definition is the line that is drawn between the outside of the house and the inside of the house. It is a boundary. The goal is to make it a solid line (continuous boundary) that keeps water out, allows moisture to escape, and eliminates air movement in either direction.
Using modular construction, homebuilders can leverage opportunities during the off-site home construction process that just aren’t available when homes are traditionally built onsite. Some of the advantages are: building a home from the inside out (meaning sheathing goes on last), no rain and/or moisture getting into the home during construction, and the overall quality assurance environment that is fostered when building indoors in a controlled environment. Let’s see how modular construction’s support for a continuous thermal envelop can improve your new home!
Lower Energy Bills
The roof, walls, windows, doors, and foundation combine to form your home’s enclosure. During the construction of your home, there is one chance to get it right before it’s locked in for the rest of your home’s life. Many energy efficient homes follow guidelines from the Department of Energy (DOE). One of their programs is for a Zero Energy Ready (ZER) home. A ZER home is built using leading expert recommendations for advanced protection from the barrier that makes up its thermal envelope and that provides significant utility bill savings along with enhanced comfort and durability.
Areas covered include:
High-Performance Windows – These windows used advanced technology to keep out heat in the summer and keep it in during the winter. However, they promote natural light into the living space year-round.
High-Performance Insulation – Insulation provides a tight thermal blanket to keep your home warm and quiet.
Draft Protection – The thermal envelope not only protects from air movement but also blocks dust, pollen, noise, and moisture.
Better Air Quality
You typically spend more time in your home than outside your home. However, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that indoor air has 2 to 5 times more contaminates than outdoor air! The first step in getting indoor air quality under control in new homes is by selecting the right materials from the beginning.
Maintaining air quality is done using fresh air systems. Be sure to check and replace filters regularly. Use high capture filtration technology to ensure the best indoor air quality. In addition, make sure adequate ventilation is in place. Trapped moisture, in addition to contaminates, needs to be removed from your home.
In a home with a tight thermal envelope, comfort is about more than just a set-point thermostat and a builder grade system. A home built using modular construction is about the comfort that comes from even temperatures and moisture control between rooms and on each floor. Without air leakage into the home, drafts are eliminated. You will be comfortable in and enjoy your home year-round.
Important items include employing advanced technology components and controls to deliver lower heating and cooling bills. Make sure to locate heating and cooling ducts inside the thermal envelope as opposed to the typical attic or crawlspace installation. Keeping them inside means higher comfort and lower energy bills.
Lower Maintenance (No water infiltration)
Damage from weather and moisture is one of the homeowner’s biggest concerns. Since there is one shot at getting critical details right during construction, using modular construction is a big first step in the right direction. Moisture entering a home during construction can become trapped. This moisture then turns up in the form of mold and mildew. The proper installation of windows, doors, and roofing can halt the infiltration of water. Making the home dry by design is a critical first step in protecting a home from water. The often missed second part of the equation is interior moisture control. Protecting the home from leaks and interior moisture build-up through proper ventilation and drains.
A Continuous Thermal Barrier Makes Your Home Better
With modular construction, you know your home is built using a level of efficiency that only factory construction can provide. When you add in the requirements and process for implementing a tight thermal envelope, the combination becomes unbeatable. Everything you buy today is built in a quality-controlled factory. Building right the first time with a continuous thermal envelope means your future energy bills will be reduced or can even be eliminated! A home built with modular construction means your home will be comfortable, safe, and energy-efficient.
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